Monday, November 8, 2010

Getting a bit too caught up

I'm reading a great new book called In Cheap we Trust by Lauren Weber. It's an examination of Americans' love/hate on-again/ off-again relationship with thrift, and the differences between cheap behavior and thrifty behavior. It's incredibly interesting, and I'll be writing a proper review once I'm finished, but there is one idea that is just lodged in my mind that I can't stop thinking about.

A bit of context: The author talks briefly about her upbringing in the introduction, explaining how her father was a man who liked to make his pennies stretch as far as he could. He would keep the house so cold that you could see your breath and wash the dishes in cold water (which she notes was not very effective). He was also a man who was generous when it counted, and sent each of his kids to the college of their choice to study what they wanted to study with no cost to the kids at all. He paid for everything.

As was reading this, I was thinking--yes! that's exactly the kind of thrift I aim to employ in my life (except I will always wash my dishes in hot water). I never want to be cheap. To me, cheap is mean, penny-pinching behavior; cheap is saving for the sake of saving and just admiring your pile of money; thrifty is not buying more than you need, knowing the difference, and having the ability to spend your money on things that are important.

Then the author mentioned the tea bags.

Apparently, as a further cost-cutting measure, her father would re-use his teabags up to twelve times. He would dunk once, "just enough to color the water" then clip the bag on a makeshift clothesline to dry. This is appalling to me, and I have to wonder, why drink tea at all? Why not just drink hot water?

I like a strong cup of tea. I've been known to use two tea bags sometimes, so this kind of behavior steps foot squarely into cheap territory and infringes on your quality of life. Unless your tea is made of the rarest flower that can only be harvested by blind nuns in Tibet, there is no reason to live like this.

Out of curiosity, I decided to examine my own tea consumption and the possibility of saving money. My preferred brand is PG Tips, which I can usually get at The Ocean State Job Lot (weird, discount remaindered store) for $3.45 for 40 teabags-- about $.09 per bag. Not great, but not bad either. My local grocery store sells that brand for $8.99 for 80 teabags--$.11 per bag, so I'm already seeking out a bargain.
But wait, I can also get Tetley tea for sometimes as low as $2.65 for an 80 count box--a mere $.03 per teabag. Tetley's is nice and strong, but I don't like the flavor as much. However, it is $.06 cheaper per bag to go with the Tetley's.

Considering I drink at least one cup of tea per day in the summer, and at least two cups per day in the winter, that could be significant savings. If we average that I drink 650 cups of tea per year, that's $58.50 spent on PG and $19.50 on Tetley's--pretty significant difference, but do I really want to live my life drinking sub-par tea just to save $39? Then again, it is $39, that's walking-around money.

This is possibly the lamest blog I've ever written, but it's a good illustration of how significant savings can be just from switching brands! It has merit! Even though I've devolved into strange nickle-and-diming territory. I've just done a big tea buy, so I'll drink that up, but I have a box of Tetley's waiting in the wings--perhaps I'll grow to appreciate it?


  1. Your blog makes me laugh so much. I just bought a different coffee because it was $1.00 cheaper per pound. I am a coffee snob though. I like my Co-Op fair trade stuff that I grind right in the store.

    With another person around though I'm using it much more quickly. I'm thinking maybe I can slowly just decrease the quality of what I'm drinking and maybe I won't notice...highly doubtful though.

  2. This reminds me of the time I went caffeine-free--I seem to remember it lasted three or four years, but maybe it just seemed like it. I could live with caffeine-free pop (or no pop) and caffeine-free flavored coffees (or no coffees), and it was nice not to droop in the afternoon (it's amazing how not-tired you feel when you never have caffeine), but what wore me down was the decaffeinated tea. It's just not the same, man. I gave up on trying to be caffeine-free solely because I wanted to drink real tea again.
    Tea is not something you should skimp on. Get the stuff you like!